Sunday, October 18, 2020

Crash.


Word reaches me from an extremely reliable source that the Running Horses pub, opposite Erith Riverside Gardens may well soon have a new owner. The rumour I have heard is that the place is about to change hands. Under previous ownership back in the 1980’s, the Running Horses Carvery was incredibly popular – to book on a Sunday you usually had to make a reservation a couple of weeks in advance. The food was well cooked and plentiful, the place was packed and the service was great. The excellent view over the river Thames from the upper floors windows only added to the whole experience. I can recall being taken there with my sister by my parents on many occasions. It was always a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately things have gone downhill since. The Running Horses used to be a “treat” destination, but nowadays it seems to be a disappointment. The current owners spent a lot of money on the place a few years ago, but I don’t think they have recouped it. Walking past the place early on a Sunday afternoon, I rarely see more than a couple of cars in the car park at the back, or in the Riverside Gardens parking spaces at the front of the pub. This contrasts with the eighties, when a driver would be hard pressed to find a space after midday. When I last visited the Running Horses a couple of years ago, the only real ale they had on tap was Young’s Bitter (one of my favourite bog standard bitters) but it was sour and off. When I took back the pint the barman denied it was off, and when I showed him my CAMRA membership card, he offered me a pint of Carlsberg lager in replacement. I am pretty sure he had no idea how insulting that was to a real ale enthusiast, so I got a refund and went home. This is no kind of customer service. I think a change of management company or brewery might be the best way forward to keep the place going – I have worries that it might get closed and converted into apartments, or worse still, demolished to make way for yet more faceless new flats. If the rumour that I have heard is indeed true, the pub could be getting not only new ownership, but also some much needed and overdue investment. If you have any information about the situation with the Running Horses, please Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com in confidence. 


Following my publication of a map of central Erith from back in 1930 last week, regular reader and occasional contributor Bob shared his reminiscences for publication. Bob writes:- "I thought I would give you my memories of the Old Town.  I didn’t work there that long but I certainly enjoyed the place.  Before I worked there at the Midland Bank,  Erith wasn’t the most frequented shopping place as it was two buses from Bedonwell Road, where we lived rather than a single  401 or 486 bus journey to Bexleyheath.  I did go to Mitchell’s with my grandmother and was fascinated by the aerial cash system that took your money and you had wait for your change on its return. I have very fond memories of the Old Erith Town. I worked in the High Street from 1961 until 1965 and I am pleased that I never saw it’s destruction starting in 1966. My journey to work was by a 122a bus and would walk down Pier Road and then across to the High Street.  I just wish I could remember every shop down Pier Road and in what order. It would be nice if there was similar map available for the 1960’s like the 1930’s one previously posted. I would always walk down the left side passing Owen’s Ironmongers viewing all their wares out on the pavement, the next store was the LEB and then a few newer shops before I would cross over at Cross Street with Blundell’s on the corner with Charles Weedon, the solicitors. Plenty of shops down on the right side. These included Barclays Bank, SEGAS, a men’s clothing shop, Gilbert’s the photographers, Erith Observer, Diploma’s Ice Cream Parlour, Mac Fisheries, V V Carriers bakers, The Market greengrocers, Woolworth’s, Randall’s stationary, Barden’s electrical, a tobacconist and the Westminster Bank on the corner. I think there was a Dewhurst’s before the multiple department shops of Hedley Mitchell’s.  Mitchell’s had closed when I started in 1961. Turning right into the High Street was an empty shop in 1961 but became Llewelyn’s, a wood and DIY shop. There was an optician next door and a Fine Fare supermarket with the Panayi brother’s barbers and then Tip Top Bakeries on the corner of Queen Street. Across Queen Street were other shops including a Co-op furniture store and Selfe’s a jewellers. Crossing over the other side of the High Street with the Odeon Cinema on the corner, there was a DER TV rental shop, a launderette, a Men’s clothes shop, then a single property in 1961 of the Midland Bank.  This latter became a double property in about 1964. Next door was an off licence that became a carpet shop. Back across the bottom end of Pier Road was Montague Burton with its dance studio behind. Next was Howells and Griffiths a chemist. There was a shop that just sold foam for upholstery.  I think the next shop was what we would now call a delicatessen.. It was here that I would buy my freshly made lunchtime sandwiches which were slowly made and precisely wrapped in greaseproof paper. The proprietor was of European origin (German?) and of few words. I cannot remember other shops along here apart from a motor cycle/cycle shop with a red painted front and Derrett & Dormans before the White Hart Pub.  Across the road was the Post Office that was my after hours job to post the daily receipts etc.  Walking back was the Locomotive Inn, a house with a garden that hadn’t been converted into a shop, Alibars run by Mr Woods a friend of my future wife’s family, Stevens the butchers, Crown wallpapers, Williams grocers, Boots the Chemist.  There were many other shops not mentioned and some mentioned might be in the wrong order but it was 55 years ago that to moved away to Lewisham.  Two years later I was back working in the area (Atlas) but I couldn’t face seeing the changes in the town. As I said at the beginning I have many fond memories of the Old Town and had some celebrations in The Prince of Wales and the Running Horses after working hours.  Summer lunchtimes I would take my sandwich to the Erith Waterfront, study the tides times from the display and watch passing ships. Happy days to be sure."


On Friday evening there was a serious car crash in Manor Road, Erith. As a result, the road was closed for several hours. Details of how the crash happened are somewhat sketchy, but the Fire Brigade, Police and Ambulance Service were all in attendance. One of the car drivers appeared to have suffered neck / back injuries during the impact - he was taken to hospital in a full body brace. One annoying aspect of this horrible accident was the blatantly false reporting of the incident on social media. There were supposed eye witness reports on Facebook that the London Air Ambulance was called to Manor Road - this was completely untrue - besides which, the London Air Ambulance only operates in daylight, unlike the Police helicopters which operate both day and night. Why people would blatantly lie online completely escapes me. Considering how much heavy traffic uses Manor Road, especially in the daytime, the number of traffic accidents is actually very low. 

A reader called John Emailed me shortly after last weeks Blog update was published. He informed me that my list of famous local people had two glaring omissions on it - and indeed it did. I had not been aware of two prominent people who had lived locally. The first of these people was Dame Felicity Palmer. Born in Cheltenham in 1944 Dame Felicity Palmer, mezzo-soprano and music professor at the Royal College of music, was educated at Erith Grammar School when the family lived in Abbey Wood. She studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and under Marianne Schech's guidance at the Munich College for Music and Theatre. Awarded the CBE in 1993 and DBE in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to music, she has performed in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, as Katisha in The Mikado, Dame Carruthers in The Yeomen of the Guard and Little Buttercup in H.M.S. Pinafore with the ENO and Welsh National Opera, as well as a variety of other roles at the Royal Opera House, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera New York and Glyndebourne. The second prominent local is Bishop David Conner. A former resident of Riverdale Road, the Rt. Reverend David Conner K.C.V.O., Dean of Windsor since 1998, is Domestic Chaplain to the Queen. He was born in Erith in 1947 and educated at Erith Grammar School, where sometimes he would play the organ during assembly. He was also a choirboy at St. John’s Church. On leaving school he went on to study at Exeter College, Oxford. He was Vicar of Great St Mary’s Church, in Cambridge, until 1994 when he was consecrated as Bishop of Lynn, the position he held for four years until he became Dean of Windsor. He was also Bishop to the forces from 2001 - 2009. In May 2018 he conducted the marriage service of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Thanks again to John for informing me of these two prominent former local residents. 

Last Monday was Local Radio Day, an annual event to celebrate local and community radio stations around the country. Unfortunately every local radio station set up in the Bexley area has historically closed down through a lack of both money and listeners. The original community radio station Radio Thamesmead, which originally broadcast by cable from its studios in Tavy Bridge (now demolished) later metamorphosed into RTM Radio in 1990, when it got itself a FM broadcast licence on 103.8 MHz. It was very much a community centred station, and any profits generated were ploughed back into projects to benefit the local area. It ran successfully for nearly ten years, until in 1999 it was successful in an application to the Radio Authority to change its remit and become a fully commercial operation. When this was permitted, the station changed its name to Millennium 106.8 FM in the year 2000. This name was again changed in 2003 to Time FM (not to be confused with the excellent, Romford based Time 107.5 FM which is a successful and ongoing broadcasting business today), in an attempt to try and forge a link with the Greenwich Meridian, and to strengthen its local identity. Shortly thereafter the station was purchased by the Sunrise Radio group, and was run by them until 2009. The stations’ audience ratings were never that good, though it did have a small, but dedicated following. In its final year, the audience had shrunk to just 13,000 people – less than one percent of the listening audience for the area. Sunrise put Time FM up for sale, famously putting an advert on the station’s website before any staff knew about it. No buyer was found, and the station closed for good in April 2009. Time FM was not alone in being a local radio broadcaster – there was a second contender, which actually had studios in Erith, based on the Europa Industrial Estate in Fraser Road. This was a station called TGR Sound 103.7 FM. It was a volunteer run, not for profit station that went on air back in November 2006 and set out to provide community information and news, as well as both mainstream and specialist music programming. When it initially started, it was Internet only, but soon got an FM broadcast licence. To say the station was homespun would probably be probably under – describing it. There were many occasions when I would tune in and be able to hear a conversation going on in the studio, as the presenter had forgotten to switch the microphone off whilst they were in the middle of playing a track.  Bearing in mind part of their mission statement was to train future presenters, a certain degree of mistakes were I suppose to be expected, but it did seem that things went wrong with depressing regularity – it was as if there was no supervision of inexperienced presentation staff. Coming from my own historical background in radio, it was very easy to work out what was going wrong and when, and it made for occasionally painful listening. TGR stood for Thames Gateway Radio, although some local wag soon called it Totally Godawful Radio. It was designed to be a community resource, not a commercially viable radio station. It was funded from a mixture of government and GLA grants. Once the recession began to bite, the funding soon dried up and TGR Sound was forced to close down. I am always supportive of local enterprises, but TGR Sound was really not very good at all, and it never really succeeded in finding an audience – I doubt that many people in the London Borough of Bexley even realised that it existed, and if they did come across it whilst tuning around the FM radio dial, they probably thought that it was a particularly inept pirate. Things are different nowadays – the number of amateur / hobby stations that broadcast online is huge and extremely varied. A potential listener can be spoiled for choice. The history of local community based radio does not read well. Every station that has been set up in the area has ended up closing through lack of money, I am sorry to say. Hopefully this may now be changing. A station called RTM is now operating in Thamesmead. The station describes itself thus:- "RTM is a radio station based in Thamesmead, SE London, run by the artist space TACO! as a platform for community-produced culture, debate, art and music. The station provides opportunities for people to produce and distribute their own content, and learn new skills in broadcasting, production, and presenting. TACO! programmes arts content on the station’s broadcast schedule and provides training. The station’s wider activities are developed in collaboration with the local RTM community. Decisions on station policies, scheduling, public events and training are made by a voluntary RTM committee. This group is supported to undertake this role by TACO! and through funding from Arts Council England and the Creative People and Places fund. The station takes its name in homage to the original RTM (Radio Thamesmead) which was started in 1978, one of the first community radio stations in the country". You  can read more about the station by clicking here. I certainly wish them well. Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.


Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the update from Barnehurst ward:- "On the Sunday 11th October there was a report of a window being smashed at a property along Eversley Avenue Bexleyheath. This incident took place over a three day period. There was a report of a theft of a motor vehicle at Edendale Road Bexleyheath. A van was stolen overnight from the Sunday 11th October from about 8pm onwards and about 5am the next day on the Monday 12th October. Also along Hillingdon Road Bexleyheath. Number plates were stolen from a vehicle on the Thursday 8th October. The incident seemed to have happened on the same day". Belvedere ward:- "The team have delivered over 900 leaflets out to properties canvassing for SmartWater.  We will continue to do this across the ward.  If you would like a free SmartWater pack please contact the team ad let us know. Burglary patrols are being conducted across the ward due to a small increase in this type of crime.  Please be vigilant, look out for your neighbours and report any suspicious behaviour to police. The issue of electric scooters being used by children is still prevalent.  An issue is a lot of parents know or should know, that they are illegal to use in public on the road, pavement, parks etc. They can be used on private land with permission but that's all for now. Before things turn again due to Corona the team visited Belvedere Infant School on Monday.  We gave a talk to the pupils about the Police and other emergency services. The children were very attentive and interested.  We will be doing other school talks in the near future, all socially distanced. We will be holding a Street Briefing on the Thursday 22/10/20 on Grove Road at 19:00.  This is your chance to chat with the team about any local issues or concerns you may have". Bexleyheath ward:- "On Monday 5th October there was a report of a purse going missing after the victim had paid for their shopping in M&S at some point after 1025 am. On Wednesday 7th October, there was a report of a theft of a mobile phone in McDonald's on the Broadway. The incident happened a few days before the report, Victim had left the phone at the location and when they returned phone was missing. Criminal damage was reported to a tanning shop along the Broadway, damaged was caused by suspects to gain access to shop’s car park. On the Sunday 11th October a victim believes that their mobile phone may have been stolen in the Bexleyheath area, no exact time or location given. A van was reported stolen on the Wednesday 14th October overnight from Rochester Drive Bexleyheath which also had tools inside. Incident happened from about 3pm on the 13th October until about 6am the next day. Tuesday 13th October a report was made for criminal damage to a property along Grove Road Bexleyheath. Incident could have taken place over a long period of time". Crayford ward:- "We’re really sorry to say that there has been a burglary in Crayford.  On Saturday 10th October between 19.00 and 22.35 entry was gained to a property in Heathview Avenue via the front door, there was an untidy search and some damage caused within the property.  It is not known what was stolen at this stage.  Please remember now that the darker evenings are closing in to make your home look and sound occupied and to ensure that all doors and windows are suitably locked and secure.  More information on burglary prevention can be found on our webpage, www.met.police.uk. A petrol saw (a1142330) valued at £450 and a plant trailer jet wash valued at 5k were stolen from a building site in Crayford Way between 18.00 on Monday 5th October and 07.00 on Tuesday 6th October. Two pedal cycles were stolen from the rear garden of a property in Heath Road at 4.50 am on Monday 28th September. The catalytic converter was stolen from a vehicle parked at Sainsbury's on Wednesday 7th October, a registration number for the suspect’s vehicle, a blue Ford C Max was given as EY08 MTX, these are believed to be cloned plates.  This vehicle was also used to steal a catalytic converter in Bexleyheath later the same day. On Wednesday 7th October the catalytic converter was stolen off a Toyota Auris whilst parked at Hall Place between 9.45 and 11.15 am. Between 11.00 on Wednesday 7th October and 03.00 on Thursday 8th October the carbon fibre kit was stolen from a Lamborghini whilst parked in Woolbrook Road. A Catalytic converter was stolen from a silver Lexus whilst parked at Sainsbury's on Saturday 10th October between 10.15 and 11.35. We were made aware that a resident was keeping ducks in unsuitable conditions.  We visited and made the resident aware of their responsibilities to these animals being kept as pets.  This information was relayed back to the RSPCA who visited, saw that the ducks were in an unsuitable environment and no improvement was likely to be made.  The owner signed the ducks over and they will be rehomed. There have been reports of suspicious people approaching school children in recent weeks.  On Monday 5th October at approx. 15.40 a black male aged about 40 years spoke to a group of school children who then ran from him and alerted adults.  He had a stumbling gait and smelt of cannabis.  When approached by an adult he apologised.  It may have been an innocent encounter but please ensure that your children are aware of stranger danger". Erith ward:-"No burglaries this week in Erith which is good news. We are still getting daily motor vehicle crime from theft of and from vehicles. Theft from is an easy one to prevent, do not leave anything of value in your vehicle. The team have recovered a few stolen motor vehicles which were brought to our attention by members of the public. We are looking at sending our next ward panel survey out soon, which is an online survey which is tailored to Erith and gives Erith residents their chance to let us know any issues you are having. When the survey is live I will post the link on the following Bexwatch update. Regarding ward panel meetings we are still not carrying these out at the moment, when this changes I will update all panel members". Northumberland Heath ward - no report this week. Slade Green and Northend ward:- "Number plates were stolen from a vehicle in Frobisher Road over the last weekend. We have given a pack of anti-theft screws to the victim. On Sunday evening a window at McColls in Forest Road was damaged by a group of unknown males. A short time later a cone was dangerously thrown into a bus window in Northend Road. No evidence at this time to suggest if these incidents are linked but CCTV enquiries are being carried out. If anyone has any information about either incident, please contact the team in confidence. Recent reports of issues in Dale View have led to the team doing more patrols resulting in several stop and searches over the last few weeks. This will continue while on duty. Please contact us if there are any issues you would like to make us aware of". Thamesmead East ward:- "No burglaries this week. Remember remain vigilant, close and lock windows and doors even if you’re only going out for a short time. Between the hours of 5.00 pm on Tuesday 13/10/20 and 07:30 am on Wednesday /10/20 an attempted theft of a company van occurred in Alder Close. Motor Vehicle crime prevention - Ensure that your vehicle is locked when leaving it, double-checking it is secure. Your mobile phone, coins for the car park, sunglasses, packs of medication or other items that can earn quick cash are irresistible to the opportunist thief. Remember, the cost of replacing a window is often much more than that of what’s stolen. It should go without saying that wallets, handbags, purses and credit cards should never be left in an unattended vehicle. Your motor vehicle could be at risk if it is controlled with an electronic key • Organised criminals are able to steal some of these vehicles in less than 30 seconds. • They do this by using specialist equipment to programme a blank key that is compatible with the vehicle. • They do not need the original. Criminal Damage to properties - A window was smashed to a property in Bledlow Close between the hours of 4:00 pm on Monday 12/10/20 and 1:25 pm on Tuesday 13/10/. Between  11:00 pm on Tuesday, 13/10/ and 8:10 am  Wednesday 14/10/20 a window to a property in Walsham Close was smashed". West Heath ward:- "There were 2 reported burglaries from 07/10/20 to 13/10/20. The informant’s home in Marley Avenue was broken into on Sunday 11/10/20 at 2200 hours by suspects smashing through the conservatory door. Nothing was taken as the informant was in the process of moving out, the property was almost empty. On Wednesday 7/10/20 at 2156 hours the informant’s bike was stolen. It was chained to a set of ladders, all of which was stolen in Pinewood Road". 

The end video this week is a short documentary on Severndroog Castle on Shooter's Hill, and the remarkable history behind the building. The name of the folly is a corruption of a phrase in Hindi. Pronounced as Soo-ver-na-doorg. It means "The Golden Fortress". Do give it a watch - comments and feedback to me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.

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